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[Xmca-l] Re: The Russian Spinozists


I am trying to become clearer on the way Jan Derry is drawing a contrast
between what she labels the "conventional representationalist
epistemological paradigm " AND the contrasting paradigm emerging from
Hegel, Marx, and Vygotsky. Derry's target is to critique what she calls the
contemporary "post-Vygotskian" readings of Vygotsky that do not enter the
"space of reasons" within which Vygotsky operated and got his bearings. Her
intent is to make explicit what is usually taken-for-granted and invisible

David Kellogg on the other thread mentioned grammatical metaphor and I am
pointing to one example of reading "of" as metaphor. This way of reading
the term "of"  translated as "upon which" to try to understand Jan Derry. I
want to mention that Jan Derry and Martin Packer both are critiquing
Wertsch's post-Vygotskian constructivist paradigm.

On page 32 of her book Derry tries to make clear the distinction withinin
the two dominant ways of "reading" Vygotsky and suggests the
post-Vygotskian turn towards construction as a metaphor is actually a
mis-reading of where Vygotsky was trying to lead us.  Derry is making a
case that the philosophical ground that be/comes background [and therefore
invisible and taken-for-granted] IS significant for reading Vygotsky and
blindness to the clear differences of these alternative traditions OF
"knowing" has significant consequences for understanding learning as
bildung.  I am aware of the baggage and shadow side generated by
the concept "bildung" but wonder if it still has a place in our reflections
exploring plural traditions?

Derry's project is to help the reader become clear on the tradition of much
contemporary post-Vygotskian re-search. This tradition operates within the
"representational paradigm" [as Brandom uses this concept] Derry uses this
concept to show that post-vygotskian studies [contemporary studies]
"INHABIT" this representational paradigm. This inhabitation has profound
consequences for how we understand the underlying issues of freedom and

Derry says to take the idea "of" [a paradigm of representation] to frame an
argument about HOW sociogenetic explanations might develop is not a
straightforward matter. It requires detours. Derry acknowledges that most
post-Vygotskian studies do reject the correspondence theory of truth [the
mirror theory of truth that representations reflect the real world] BUT
Derry also makes the case that the representational paradigm continues to
remain dualistic [separating mind and world] THIS implicit dualism is the
target of Derry's critique.

The most salient feature of the "representational paradigm" is its
referring TO a particular epistemological position involving
taken-for-granted invisible assumptions about the human condition AND the
relation OF [mind and world]. This paradigm FOREcloses certain
possibilities [the "as if" realm] and that when incorporated without a
consideration of philosophical PREsuppositions the GROUNDS for the
FOREclosure recede into the background and what is "seen" be/comes
In Derry's own words, "The representationalist paradigm presents the
relation OF mind to world as one in which knowledge is caused by SENSE
experience is made meaningful by the constructions that are put UPON it.
[the sense experience]. The mind is understood to create meaning in a
disenchanted world OF brute nature or in circumstances where whatever
'reality' there might be is unknowable. Sellars called this
representational paradigm "The Myth of the Given" in which experience is
understood as something which cannot be a tribunal AND YET must also
somehow stand in judgement over our thinking.  This idea, at the HEART OF
the representational paradigm OF the world as independent of mind and made
meaningful BY the constructions PLACED ON the world by mind is made
EXPLICIT by Hegel to show what we take to be the means by which we acquire
our knowledge - the UNDERSTANDING - falls far short of explaining HOW
knowledge actually arises. [is dis-closed and fore-closed]. Although it may
be thought that an epistemology simply describes HOW knowledge arises, much
more is in fact involved. This becomes CLEAR once we make EXPLICIT the
additional weight of what has to be carried by the very DELIMITATIONS that
we assume IN ORDER TO explain how knowledge is possible."

Annalisa, Jan Derry here makes clear her intent to
differentiate alternative readings of Vygotsky and contemporary
post-Vygotskian paradigms whichare operating within contrasting
paradigms/traditions. Operating within different "spaces of reason". It is
not simply a matter of "translation" between concepts. It is actually
different "language games" developing different plural phenomenology. As
Martin says construction is not merely epistemological but actually
ontological changing the kinds of persons we "are".

I personally take from Derry's presentation a sensitivity to different ways
OF "reading".
I also "read" Martin Packer's exploring "artifacts" not as substances or
merely objects but as processes arising [dis-closing] within ontological
constructions OF knowing AND knower as exploring the plural nature of
traditions AS facts. The "as if" realm of possibilities WITHIN traditions.


On Wed, Jul 8, 2015 at 10:51 PM, Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com> wrote:

> Annalisa,
> You wrote,
> Unless there is a personal connection, I wondered if it is possible to
> carry on a tradition, in the sense that one would be taught personally by a
> teacher a certain body of thought, and then that student, eventually
> becoming a teacher would then also teach a student and so on. That to me is
> a tradition.
> How might this be different from one who just reads the works of? In that
> case it seems to me we would be borrowing thoughts, concepts, and ideas, if
> those might be proper classifications for thinking, in essence,
> appropriation, but not a tradition.
> Annalisa, I am using the term "tradition" as a way to express how concepts
> are situated within a background [a taken-for-granted assumption of
> meanings].  Traditions can be implicit and what Jan Derry is attempting to
> do is make clear and explicit what is usually an
> invisible taken-for-granted background.
> Here is a specific example of  Derry using the term tradition:
>  "The concept of freedom has different meanings in different traditions OF
> thought. The sense in which we commonly think of ourselves as free actors
> owes much to Descartes modernist separation of mind and world.  To
> understand the sense of free will that informs Vygotsky's work, by
> contrast, it is NECESSARY to get to grips with the sense that derives FROM
> Spinoza and Hegel." [page 87]
> Derry is arguing that the way we "read works OF" is actually a way of
> reading "UPON WHICH" that is assuming a taken-for-granted invisible
>  "ground".
> Martin Packer's article that Greg mentioned explores a notion of
> "construction" that also challenges  "construction" metaphors as focussed
> merely on  being OF "knowledge".
> In other words construction of knowing that is separated from the "knower"
> [who is also being ontologically constructed in the process OF coming to
> know]
> The concept "of" can be "read" as "upon which" that points to "traditons"
> OF thought.
> "Reading" Jan Derry or "reading" Martin Packer I am suggesting may be
> understood as entering a "reading OF" process as a reading UPON WHICH [ a
> process that often includes a taken-for-granted invisible "ground" emerging
> within a tradition]
> Both Jan Derry and Martin Packer are inviting us to "see through"
> taken-for-granted ground(s)upon which we "read" an author's work.  The upon
> which OF an author's concepts [such as the concept OF "free will"]
> is developing [and extending] from within a particular "tradition" that is
> often implicit and invisible.
> What I am suggesting may only be a "moment" in a sociocultural "process"
> that Martin articulates as including both objects AND ground(s). Traditions
> can be understood as emerging forms within a "process" and as "plural" [not
> universal or relative].  Traditons are not "static" or "objects of", they
> are the taken-for-granted "ground" upon which meaning and sense emerge as
> both knowing and knower transform.
> I am questioning the contrast between the "object FOR" [the object used
> "in order to"] and the other notion "object OF" [the object "upon which"
> now becoming ground which has been transformed FROM the object that was
> used "in order to"].
> Martin asks "What is the "object/artifact" in his article. Is the object
>  describing "the paper" [which transforms into the taken-for-granted
> invisible ground]  or the "distribution" and its qualities?  His answer is
> that there is no static "object" or "artifact" but rather a sociocultural
> "process" of becoming AS IF.
> THIS answer emerges within a radically different "tradition"
> Larry
> On Wed, Jul 8, 2015 at 2:40 PM, Annalisa Aguilar <annalisa@unm.edu> wrote:
>> Hi Larry,
>> Am not familiar with all of these thinkers, however I wonder if we can
>> actually say there is a tradition that runs through?
>> Unless there is a personal connection, I wondered if it is possible to
>> carry on a tradition, in the sense that one would be taught personally by a
>> teacher a certain body of thought, and then that student, eventually
>> becoming a teacher would then also teach a student and so on. That to me is
>> a tradition.
>> How might this be different from one who just reads the works of? In that
>> case it seems to me we would be borrowing thoughts, concepts, and ideas, if
>> those might be proper classifications for thinking, in essence,
>> appropriation, but not a tradition.
>> We have the notion that what is taught is passed as if like a family
>> heirloom (such as a great and beautiful book), that can be enjoyed from
>> whatever viewpoint one stands, but I wonder if it is more like the game of
>> telephone, in which there are distortions and misconstruals, whereby things
>> that were not thought by the originator are held to be thought by the
>> originator. This of course can happen even during the life of the
>> originator!
>> I write all that because I sense that Spinoza is one of those thinkers
>> who was misunderstood, as if anyone can take what they want or what
>> resonates and leave what they do not like, like a cafeteria smorgasbord.
>> I'm not sure that that is a fair thing to do, though while I say I am not
>> sure if there is any way to prevent it.
>> IN any case, it dawned upon me that the notion of will as Spinoza
>> presents it could be matched with the belief of karma, in that if one
>> chooses good acts to do, one will reap good results, and so how one chooses
>> becomes paramount to how one acts in the world, toward oneself and others.
>> One can point the bow wherever one chooses, but once the arrow leaves the
>> bow, it is the physical laws that determine the rest. Given that Spinoza
>> seems to have a deterministic flavor in his rendering of will, this seems
>> to me the only way to make sense of it. If I do X and I will get the family
>> of Y as a result, then I should be sure to do X if I want anything
>> resembling Y to result. If I do W and I get the family of Z to result, and
>> it is not Z that I care for, then I should refrain from ever doing W.
>> What is always strange is when people do W and they expect Y to happen,
>> which is perhaps what magical thinking is.
>> I believe that this might be why the ethics (which was the title of
>> Spinoza's last work) then becomes a concern of study, because one wants to
>> do what is good but how can one know what is good?
>> So, I'm thinking, a space of reason, would likely line up with the Hindu
>> understanding of dharma, which is hard to translate into English, but I see
>> definite parallels of dharma to Spinoza's space of reason, if space of
>> reason isn't abstract, but stands in the world as material cause and
>> effects. Dharma is the order that is here, and the ethical code (which is
>> truly stunted and oversimplified if we only see it in terms of good and
>> bad, but instead a kind of physics of causes and effects) would be to live
>> in dharma, meaning, to be in harmony with the larger order that is here.
>> Further, because the dharma is of the manifest and unmanifest world, it
>> is not something we construct, but which constructs us, in the sense that
>> there are as-if laws that operate based upon activities that result in
>> certain (sometimes understandable) ways. This is why I'm not sure about
>> using the word "construct," because it makes it seem that we are authors of
>> what we do, when it is a dynamic of the world acting upon us and us upon
>> the world dialectically.
>> (nature AND nurture!)
>> I agree with Henry that Vygotsky and Spinoza rhyme, and I like that
>> rendering of their thought, that they rhyme!
>> Apparently Marx and Spinoza rhyme as well, and it appears that Spinoza's
>> philosophy was not only about existence, but also commitment to the polis.
>> It seems to me there is much communistic thought in Spinoza's philosophy,
>> as might be seen when he verbalized his projects with his Collegiant peers,
>> similar to what Vygotsky did with his own community of peers.
>> The Collegiants are actually quite an interesting historical group. I'm
>> enjoying learning about them.
>> Kind regards,
>> Annalisa